So last night my wife Heather and I were winding down and watching reruns of “King of Queens” and she fell asleep on the couch. I decided to head to bed and let her sleep. Well a few hours later, our five-year old Nolan goes downstairs and decides to curl up on the couch with her in the middle of the night. He then proceeds to wake her up and asks: “Can we go upstairs and sleep in your bed?
Heather says: “Okay, but just for little bit. Then you need to go back to sleep in your bed like a big boy. You go ahead up and warm the bed up for us and I’ll be up in 5 minutes.”
Nolan responds: “I have no idea what you’re saying to me!” LOL!
This leads me to our choice of words and lingo when teaching young children to swim. Too often we try to impress the parents and use advanced terminology. While it may sound good to the parents, more often than not our young students don’t understand what we are trying to convey to them. In my 5-Year old Nolan’s words:, “I have no idea what you’re saying to me!” If they don’t understand what we are telling them, learning will be hindered. On the contrary, if a Swim Instructor uses the K.I.S.S. technique (Keep it Simple Stupid), children will learn to swim faster.
If you’d like to learn the teaching cues and terminology we have tested and tried specifically for children in our Swim Lessons University courses, visit our website and learn more about our Swim Instructor certifications, DVD and Online video courses, and swim lesson plans today!
I want to ask you how you deal with young children who have fear in water? I’ve heard about lots of different approaches. Some say put them underwater so they’ll be forced to learn to swim. Others say let them play and have fun until they feel ready. And with these children to you think it’s better to give them support aids like life vests so they can just play in the water? Or will that delay their learning how to swim and help them rely on support and lose confidence in their own ability to swim without support?
Thanks for taking the time to read my question! I’m hoping you’ll be able to answer quickly.
I admire your dedication on teaching children how to swim. What is just as impressive is that you are taking the initiative to research the best way to do it. What I am going to do in this blog is give you my short answer, and refer you to other blogs that I have already written on your common, but excellent questions to give you more detail.
1. Always use a child-centered approach. NEVER force. The child’s enjoyment of the process is just as important as the outcome. In fact, it is more important.
2. While unstructured play is good and encouraged, you can and should also incorporate age-appropriate “activities” in your swimming lesson setting. In other words, you make learning to swim feel like play, though you are actually teaching the child how to swim. This is paramount when teaching preschoolers how to swim.
3. If you use one of the SLU approved “Progressive Flotation devices” CORRECTLY, your students will not only learn to swim faster, but swimming will be a more enjoyable experience (and a safer one).
Here is what I would recommend that you do:
1. Go to SEARCH BOX on the right side of this blog page and type in the following topics: Fearful Flotation Swim 101
When you search these keywords, you will find more specific information AND more thorough answers to your questions. Many of them also include video examples as well.
2. The second thing I would recommend is that you consider taking our Swim Lessons University courses. All courses are video-based and you can take the certification exams online. Swim Lessons University training and certification is now being used by YMCAs, Recreation Departments, Swim Schools, Pool Management companies, and private swimming instructors in 31 states and 11 countries.
Based on your questions today, I would get started on these Swim Instructor Training courses:
1. Teach Like a Pro – The Foundations of Teaching
2. From Tears to Cheers – How to Help Children Overcome Their Fears (audio program)
3. Swim 101 – A Comprehensive Video Course for Teaching Young Children How to Swim
Once you go through the video course, then go to Instructor Tools to take your online swim instructor certification exam. We also recommend 3 hours of practicum training per course with a Swim Lessons University certified Learn-to-Swim Professional.
If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or CALL us toll-free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).
The art of teaching children to swim means that sometimes you have to be creative, independent, spontaneous, practical, and even rule-bending. In the end, it’s about what works best, what engages your students the most. One of the easiest ways you can make learning fun for young learners is to tap into their imagination. Research from the John Hopkins School of Education illustrates the significant benefits from tapping into the imagination as it also stimulates a calming effect on a child’s emotions. How is this instrumental to those of us teaching preschoolers that are non-swimmers (Swim 101)?
This calming effect turns on more circuits between “the feeling and thinking brain,” and integrates the right prefrontal lobe’s direct responses to emotions with the left prefrontal lobe’s ability to regulate these emotions. This allows the brain’s CEO to do its’ job, helping the child:
• better control his or her impulses
• manage negative emotions such as fear and frustration
• soothe or comfort his or herself
• move out of defensive behaviors
When you teach the Swim Lessons University Swim 101 curriculum to young children, you will experience the beauty of this approach first hand. And when you can make swimming lessons for young children more playful; when you have the children engaged and using their imaginations, you are creating an atmosphere where your students are bound to excel and experience the joy of learning to swim.
Dear Swim Professor:
I have a 1:1 class with a 9 y/o boy with Down syndrome. He a very able, capable child and he absolutely loves the water but his previous teacher has completely confused his understanding of bubbles/breath in Freestyle.
Could you/would you give me some strategies, or links, or where to find printed material which will help me to teach him please?
Thank you for your commitment to being the best swim instructor you can be, and thank you for your question. While we don’t currently have a specific program available on teaching children with Down syndrome, if you are looking for video examples, I think you will find that the techniques and tips shown in our Teach Like Pro DVD course and Teaching Children with Autism will work very well for you.
In addition to the Swim Lessons University video courses, here are 12 TIPS for Teaching Swimming to Children with Down Syndrome:
1. INDIVIDUALIZE. Focus your student. Learn firsthand his needs and capabilities.
2. EMBRACE IT! Don’t underestimate what a difference you can make in your student’s life!
3. MOTIVATE. Use his abilities and interests to capture his enthusiasm.
4. CREATE SUCCESS. Give him reasons to feel successful.
5. FOCUS. Don’t overwhelm him with trivial things and focus on ONE thing at a time.
6. DEMONSRATE. Show him what you want. Don’t just tell him. Kids with Down Syndrome are usually excellent mimics. Show him and say, “Do this.”
7. USE SIMPLE WORDS AND SHORT SENTENCES. Use learning cues and short sentences that are to the point.
8. FEEDBACK. Give specific feedback.
9. PRACTICE. Keep lessons short (no longer than 30 minutes). In terms of his general schedule, the parents may want to schedule a less structured activity before his swimming lessons. Alternating between structured and less structured activities is generally a good idea.
10. TRANSITION TIME. Give plenty of simple verbal cues when you are going to move from one activity to another. You could say, “In 5 minutes, we will clean up and get ready for Show & Tell. In 3 minutes…. in 2 minutes, 1 minute,”and then count down “10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 – it’s clean up time!” This really helps with transitions (moving from one activity to another.)
11. SHOW & TELL. You might consider having some “Show & Tell Time” at the end of each lesson. This would serve as a wonderful bonding time which you will both really enjoy at the end of his structured swimming lesson. He could show you his favorite book, toy, or even dance for you. Children with Down Syndrome tend to like dancing. Your “Show & Tell” time will also serve as a transition or reminder that the “end of the lesson” is coming.
12. PARENT’S INSIGHT. Talk candidly with his parents. They’re experts and can tell you a great deal about their son’s special needs and abilities.
Woodbine House publishes an impressive collection of low-cost books and DVDs on Down syndrome, including a Parent’s Guide (in English and Spanish) and materials for teachers. Call 1.800.843.7323 or visit: www.woodbinehouse.com/Down-Syndrome.18.104.22.168.htm
When you can provide a positive, playful environment in your swimming lessons that also produces lots of quality repetition for your preschoolers, you are guaranteed to have success. This is all possible because your students are fully engaged and having fun. Here is an example of one of the kick activities for young children that will be featured in the 2nd Edition (coming in 2014) of Swim 101 Certification Course video and swim lesson plan:
A FEW IMPORTANT COMMENTS:
This particular video was shot in 1999. While children enjoy it just as much today, we will be making a few tweaks for the 2nd Edition Swim 101 Course Video:
1. We now use the “thicker, super sized noodle” which is especially helpful when you have young 3-year olds just learning their balance or larger children in which the small noodle isn’t buoyant enough to give them the appropriate amount of support.
2. The instructor comments, “nice and straight legs.” That is an exaggeration. We really don’t want the legs perfectly straight AND it would be very difficult, let alone ineffective to kick with “straight legs.” But since young students generally bend the knees excessively, feedback cues such as “straighten the legs out” can be effective even though you don’t mean “literally straight.”
3. When manipulating the legs, Swim Lessons University now recommends a technique we call the “Sack of Sugar.” Watch this video to see how to do it:
4. We now use the smaller nets as you just saw in the video demonstrating the “sack of sugar.” If you would like to purchase the smaller nets, email jreiser@swimprofessor
Today’s blog is in a Q & A Format, as I answer questions from a North Carolina Instructor:
N.C. Instructor: When you are manipulating a student’s arms on the “Butterfly-Inchworm” stationary drill (as seen in the Butterfly 301/302/303 Instructor Certification Video Course), are your legs squeezing the child’s left leg, or both legs? I worry only slightly because I know that there are some parents who might be uncomfortable with their child in this position with a male teacher. Am I being really weird worrying about this? I will have 3 male swim instructors on my staff. The rest are female.
Swim Professor: Great Question. In the stationary drill, I do have the student wrap his legs around one of my legs. I do this in order to isolate part of the skill so their is less distraction. However, I do advise male instructors especially to AVOID this technique for the same reasons you mentioned. Even though our instructors are not alone with the students and their parents and other spectators can see that this is a teaching technique, it is not worth taking the chance that the instructor’s intentions would even be debated.
N.C. Instructor: I’ve always just had the kids stand on the pool bottom while I manipulate their arms on a butterfly stationary drill. I guess it isn’t as good as in a horizontal position since the kids aren’t really able to “feel” the proper recovery and body dolphin motion in a vertical position.
Swim Professor: There is certainly nothing wrong with having the students stand to practice the recovery phase of the stroke as part of the learning progression. But yes, the more realistic the position the better going forward. In other words, you may find that going through the movement while the student stands on the bottom of the pool is very valuable to introduce the skill. But as you repeat that in future classes it may lose some of it’s value, and you may find that it is more important for them to start “feeling it” while in the actual swimming position.
N.C. Instructor: My last question is: What kind of wetsuit do you wear while teaching? I like yours that you wear in the videos. It looks comfortable and warm, but not too constricting.
Swim Professor: I personally prefer the Henderson 3mm Front Zip Shorty. I got mine from Diver’s Supply for $120.00. Not cheap, but the front zip is much more comfortable for teaching than a traditional rear zip you would use for scuba diving. For your students, you can find wetsuits for as little as $30 online at www.SwimLessonsUniversity.com We really like the Konfidence Warma Wetsuit for children. There are several wetsuit styles available that are great for swimming lessons, including wetsuits for babies and wetsuit shorties for kids.
If you ever have the chance to enjoy an outdoor Jacuzzi during a pretty winter snow, you will absolutely love it. I would advise against making snow angels upon your exit. Let your husband do that! It will be a lot funnier!
SO WHAT ABOUT SWIMMING LESSONS in the COLD? While I am by no means endorsing outdoor swim lessons in the snow, you may be surprised at what you can accomplish if your pool is in the 90-93 degree range, despite cool air temperatures.
In the video I posted below, you can see my 3-year old Rex and 4-year old Wells in their swimming lesson yesterday. Do you see any indication that they are cold, uncomfortable, or unhappy? This video was taken October 8, 2013 in Columbia, SC. It was raining and 59 degrees for their 4:00PM lesson! The water, however, was 92 degrees. And as you can see, they are happy as can be, and all they did today was improve their swimming and had lots of fun! Don’t believe it? Here is video evidence, and you can google our weather for today.
In my 31 years of teaching swimming lessons and coaching competitive swimmers, I have seen my share of cold swimmers. I have been miserable myself because of cold water. In 1993, I taught swimming lessons in Pennsylvania at Liberty Park in South Fork, PA near Johnstown. The pool was fed by natural spring water. Even during the month of June when air temperatures were in the mid 80’s, I remember teaching and feeling like I was going to freeze to death.
Even though the year was 1980, I will never forget swimming in the West Newton Rotary Swim Meet in West Newton, PA. I was twelve. Our Johnstown swim team was in a close race with the Butler Y swim team from Pittsburgh going into the final leg of the relay. But when the Butler swimmer’s anchor leg dove into the pool, the race was all but over. Why? The Butler swimmer barely entered the water and literally erupted to the surface crying and screaming it was so cold. He swam right back to the wall, jumped out of the pool, and we never saw him again! They were disqualified and we won the gold! I would guess that pool was no warmer than 70 degrees that September day which is REALLY COLD WATER. Did you know it is a scientific fact that 80 degree water feels like 40 degree air? I wonder what 70 feels like? I just remember feeling numb when I finished my leg of the race. But us Johnstown kids are tough!
I personally HATE being cold, and I have no intention to ever swim or teach cold again. I wear a 3mm wetsuit anytime I teach, even in the summer in South Carolina! I’d rather be hot any day. I guess that explains why I made my home in SC after living in PA for my first 22 years (Well that and I met the most beautiful girl in the world who happens to be my wife:-)
So back to the premise of today’s blog. “How to Swim Comfortably When the Outdoor Temperatures Start Falling? ”
1. Set your pool heater to 92-93 degrees and keep it covered with either a solar blanket or thermal blankets when it’s not in use.
2. Consider a 3mm Wetsuit for yourself and a Kids Konfidence Wetsuit for students to keep them warm even when they exit the water.
3. Limit your lessons to 30 minutes. Limit your Novice Swim Team to 60 minutes.
In the end, use common sense. If a child looks uncomfortable or says she’s cold, get her warm and ask her to come back when the weather is better. Secondly, follow the golden rule. Treat others as you would want to be treated. In other words, if a child’s parent doesn’t want their child to swim, respect their wishes as you would want them to respect yours.
Lastly, if you teach in cool weather on a yearly basis but you keep the water 93 degrees warm, the culture will change. Swimmers and swimming parents are the most dedicated people you will find. As long as they know you care, as long as you take care of their children, you will have more and more swimmers every year taking advantage of your warm water (and helping you pay that gas/electric bill)!
When teaching swimming lessons to preschoolers, you can be so much more successful when you make learning like play. The famous children’s television series “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” coincidentally targeted the same age group as our Swim 101 course, which is our beginners course for young children between the ages of three and five years of age.
Mr. Roger’s put it like this: “When we treat children’s play as seriously as it deserves, we are helping them feel the joy that’s to be found in the creative spirit. It’s the things we play with and the people who help us play that make a great difference in our lives.”
Encouraging children to use their imagination engages and excites this young age group. This why it is important to use “make believe” in your classes with young learners. Here is a short video of two activities that you can use:
Could you see the effectiveness of the “pretend play?” When you can accomplish this in your Swim 101 classes, the skills naturally follow with repetition and your guidance. This is all possible because you were successful getting your students engaged in a manner that they are bursting with enthusiasm.
The trick then becomes in the transition from one activity to the next. You got to see one of those transitions. In the 2nd Edition of Swim 101 which will be published in January, 2014, you will get to see how to do it from the start of your class to the finish.
Lee Atwater once said, “Perception is reality.” As swimming instructors and swim school owners it is so important that we take this quote seriously.
Here are 10 QUICK QUESTIONS you can ask:
1. How does my facility look to our patrons?
2. How do I dress?
3. How do I interact with the children?
4. Do I make it a point to smile and say “hello _________” to each of my students?
5. Do I make it a point to smile and say “hello ________ ” to each of their parents?
6. Do I make it a point to smile say “hello” to facility employees, from custodians to supervisors? Be a class act and treat each of them with the same genuine friendliness.
7. How do I respond to the requests of my new supervisor? Do I question them in front of others or do I “embrace change” and treat them with respect? (If you have a valid concern or idea, talk to them in private. Let them know you have an idea or a thought you want to share. Now that makes a great impression!).
8. Do I make it a point to smile and say “see you next time” to my students? OR do I say: “it’s time to go–you have 3 seconds to get out of the pool!”
9. Do I make it a point to smile and say “have a great day” to parents, employees, and other patrons?
10. Am I looking to give them a little extra or a little less?
As the great heavyweight fighter Mahammad Ali once said, “Don’t count the days, make the days count.” As swimming instructors, “Don’t count the minutes, make the minutes count.” Perception is reality. If the parents, administrators, and others around you “think” you are “just putting in your time,” that is the reality of the situation. The great news is that YOU CAN CHANGE THAT PERCEPTION by knowing what the perception is…. Sometimes it is a difficult reality to face. But it makes us stronger. Be extraordinary every day, and those around you will perceive you in the most favorable way. The legendary football coach Jimmy Johnson said, “The difference between the ordinary and the extraordinary is that little “extra.”
Once your students have a hang of the “general idea” of the butterfly stroke, then it is time to start refining some of the details. In this video clip, you can see 6-year old McKinley is figuring out the opportune time to get the head beneath the surface. On her first two strokes, she drops her head prematurely which throws off the timing and interferes with the recovery. When the head goes down too early, so do the shoulders, which prevent an nice, smooth recovery of the arms (you recover after each pull). While she still has plenty to work on (what 6 year old doesn’t?), she does a fabulous job putting figuring out the necessary head position relative to the recovery and entry!
***Note McKinley is also wearing a pair of Finis Zoomers. I like the Zoomers because the blade is short, keeping the kick action more similar to their kick than would long blade flippers. At the same time, the short blade Zoomers still provide additional propulsion which helps young learners get higher in the water and gives them a better chance to make technique improvements. For more detailed video instruction on how to teach the butterfly, check out Swim Lessons University for Swim Instructor DVDs, as well as Online Swim Instructor Certification opportunities.